Sarah Kay

Sarah
Kay
1988

American Poet, Founder and Co-Director of Project V.O.I.C.E.

Author Quotes

I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily but don?t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.

She makes tea by hand. Nettles, slippery elm, turmeric, cinnamon - my mother is a recipe for warm throats and belly laughs. Once she fell off a ladder when I was three. She says all she was worried about was my face as I watched her fall.

We were dandelion seeds released to the wind, she asked for no return. We are saplings now. With gentle hands.

I will love you with too many commas, but never any asterisks.

Some nights, I wake up knowing he is anxious. He is across the world in another woman's arms and the years have spread us like dandelion seeds, sanding down the edges of our jigsaw parts that used to only fit each other

When I hear other people's stories, I like to believe that they contribute to my 'Encyclopedia of Human Experience.' The stories I hear help me expand my definition of what love is, what pain feels like, what sacrifice means, what laughter can do.

I?m gonna paint the solar system on the backs of her hands so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say ?oh I know that like the back of my hand.

Some people read palms to tell your future, but I read hands to tell your past. Each scar makes a story worth telling. Each callused palm, each cracked knuckle is a missed punch or years in a factory.

When I hear what I have written out loud, the clich‚s hang in the air between us like bad breath.

If I should have a daughter, instead of 'Mom,' she's gonna call me 'Point B,' because that way she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me. And I'm going to paint solar systems on the backs of her hands so she has to learn the entire universe before she can say, 'Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.'

Sometimes the only way I know how to work through something is by writing a poem. And sometimes I get to the end of the poem and look back and go, 'Oh, that's what this is all about,' and sometimes I get to the end of the poem and haven't solved anything, but at least I have a new poem out of it.

When they bombed Hiroshima, the explosion formed a mini-supernova, so every living animal, human or plant that received direct contact with the rays from that sun was instantly turned to ash. And what was left of the city soon followed. The long-lasting damage of nuclear radiation caused an entire city and its population to turn into powder. When I was born, my mom says I looked around the whole hospital room with a stare that said, This? I've done this before. She says I have old eyes. When my Grandpa Genji died, I was only five years old, but I took my mom by the hand and told her, Don't worry, he'll come back as a baby. And yet, for someone who's apparently done this already, I still haven't figured anything out yet. My knees still buckle every time I get on a stage. My self-confidence can be measured out in teaspoons mixed into my poetry, and it still always tastes funny in my mouth. But in Hiroshima, some people were wiped clean away, leaving only a wristwatch or a diary page. So no matter that I have inhibitions to fill all my pockets, I keep trying, hoping that one day I'll write a poem I can be proud to let sit in a museum exhibit as the only proof I existed. My parents named me Sarah, which is a biblical name. In the original story God told Sarah she could do something impossible and she laughed, because the first Sarah, she didn't know what to do with impossible. And me? Well, neither do I, but I see the impossible every day. Impossible is trying to connect in this world, trying to hold onto others while things are blowing up around you, knowing that while you're speaking, they aren't just waiting for their turn to talk -- they hear you. They feel exactly what you feel at the same time that you feel it. It's what I strive for every time I open my mouth -- that impossible connection. There's this piece of wall in Hiroshima that was completely burnt black by the radiation. But on the front step, a person who was sitting there blocked the rays from hitting the stone. The only thing left now is a permanent shadow of positive light. After the A bomb, specialists said it would take 75 years for the radiation damaged soil of Hiroshima City to ever grow anything again. But that spring, there were new buds popping up from the earth. When I meet you, in that moment, I'm no longer a part of your future. I start quickly becoming part of your past. But in that instant, I get to share your present. And you, you get to share mine. And that is the greatest present of all. So if you tell me I can do the impossible, I'll probably laugh at you. I don't know if I can change the world yet, because I don't know that much about it -- and I don't know that much about reincarnation either, but if you make me laugh hard enough, sometimes I forget what century I'm in. This isn't my first time here. This isn't my last time here. These aren't the last words I'll share. But just in case, I'm trying my hardest to get it right this time around.

If I should have a daughter??Instead of ?Mom?, she?s gonna call me ?Point B.? Because that way, she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me. And I?m going to paint the solar system on the back of her hands so that she has to learn the entire universe before she can say ?Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.? She?s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air. There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by band-aids or poetry, so the first time she realizes that Wonder-woman isn?t coming, I?ll make sure she knows she doesn?t have to wear the cape all by herself. Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I?ve tried. And ?Baby,? I?ll tell her ?don?t keep your nose up in the air like that, I know that trick, you?re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him. Or else, find the boy who lit the fire in the first place to see if you can change him.? But I know that she will anyway, so instead I?ll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boats nearby, ?cause there is no heartbreak that chocolate can?t fix. Okay, there?s a few heartbreaks chocolate can?t fix. But that?s what the rain boots are for, because rain will wash away everything if you let it. I want her to see the world through the underside of a glass bottom boat, to look through a magnifying glass at the galaxies that exist on the pin point of a human mind. Because that?s how my mom taught me. That there?ll be days like this, ?There?ll be days like this my momma said? when you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises. When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you wanna save are the ones standing on your cape. When your boots will fill with rain and you?ll be up to your knees in disappointment and those are the very days you have all the more reason to say ?thank you,? ?cause there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it?s sent away. You will put the ?wind? in win some lose some, you will put the ?star? in starting over and over, and no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life. And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting I am pretty damn naive but I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily but don?t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it. ?Baby,? I?ll tell her ?remember your mama is a worrier but your papa is a warrior and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.? Remember that good things come in threes and so do bad things and always apologize when you?ve done something wrong but don?t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining. Your voice is small but don?t ever stop singing and when they finally hand you heartbreak, slip hatred and war under your doorstep and hand you hand-outs on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

Spoken word poetry is the art of performance poetry. I tell people it involves creating poetry that doesn't just want to sit on paper, that something about it demands it be heard out loud or witnessed in person.

When you fall in love, it is discovering the ocean after years of puddle jumping.

Is there a word for the moment you win tug-of-war? When the weight gives, and all that extra rope comes hurtling towards you, how even though you've won, you still end up with muddy knees and burns on your hands? Is there a word for that? I wish there was.

Still now I send letters into space hoping that some mailman somewhere will track you down and recognize you from the descriptions in my poems that he will place the stack of them in your hands and tell you, there is a girl who still writes you, she doesn't know how not to.

Women don't have to be defined by others. We have the power to define ourselves: by telling our own stories, in our own words, with our own voices.

It does not matter how strong your gravity is, we were always meant to fly.

Such a little thing really, a kiss... most people don't give it a moment's consideration. They kiss on meeting, they kiss on parting, that simple touching of flesh is taken entirely for granted as a basic human right.

You are a woman. Skin and bones. Veins and nerves. Hair and sweat. You are not made of metaphors. Not apologies. Not excuses. If you grow up the type of woman men want to hold, you can let them hold you. All day they practice keeping their bodies upright--even after all this evolving, it still feels unnatural, still strains the muscles, holds firm the arms and spine. Only some men will want to learn what it feels like to curl themselves into a question mark around you, admit they do not have the answers they thought they would have by now; some men will want to hold you like The Answer. You are not The Answer. You are not the problem. You are not the poem or the punchline or the riddle or the joke. Woman. If you grow up the type men want to love, You can let them love you. Being loved is not the same thing as loving. When you fall in love, it is discovering the ocean after years of puddle jumping. It is realizing you have hands. It is reaching for the tightrope when the crowds have all gone home. Do not spend time wondering if you are the type of woman men will hurt. If he leaves you with a car alarm heart, you learn to sing along. It is hard to stop loving the ocean. Even after it has left you gasping, salty. Forgive yourself for the decisions you have made, the ones you still call mistakes when you tuck them in at night. And know this: Know you are the type of woman who is searching for a place to call yours. Let the statues crumble. You have always been the place. You are a woman who can build it yourself. You were born to build.

Hands learn. More than minds do.

It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready.

The first love of my life never saw me naked - there was always a parent coming home in half an hour - always a little brother in the next room. Always too much body and not enough time for me to show it. Instead, I gave him my shoulder, my elbow, the bend of my knee - I lent him my corners, my edges, the parts of me I could afford to offer - the parts I had long since given up trying to hide. He never asked for more. He gave me back his eyelashes, the back of his neck, his palms - we held each piece we were given like it was a nectarine that could bruise if we weren?t careful. We collected them like we were trying to build an orchid. And the spaces that he never saw, the ones my parents half labeled private parts when I was still small enough to fit all of myself and my worries inside a bathtub - I made up for that by handing over all the private parts of me. There was no secret I didn?t tell him, there was no moment I didn?t share - and we didn?t grow up, we grew in, like ivy wrapping, molding each other into perfect yings and yangs. We kissed with mouths open, breathing his exhale into my inhale - we could have survived underwater or outer space. Breathing only of the breathe we traded, we spelled love, g-i-v-e, I never wanted to hide my body from him - if I could have I would have given it all away with the rest of me - I did not know it was possible. To save some thing for myself. Some nights I wake up knowing he is anxious, he is across the world in another woman?s arms - the years have spread us like dandelion seeds - sanding down the edges of our jigsaw parts that used to only fit each other. He drinks from the pitcher on the night stand, checks the digital clock, it is 5am - he tosses in sheets and tries to settle, I wait for him to sleep. Before tucking myself into elbows and knees reach for things I have long since given up.

You are not made of metaphors, not apologies, not excuses.

Author Picture
First Name
Sarah
Last Name
Kay
Birth Date
1988
Bio

American Poet, Founder and Co-Director of Project V.O.I.C.E.